Monthly Archives: February 2012

Children’s Books by Washington Wives

It’s everywhere lately, and it’s only going to become more prominent: politics. In this big political year, the men — and women — of Washington are doing what they can to inform the people. But those people also include children. Now children’s books written by the wives of the politically powerful men in Washington, D.C. are all the rage, the newest political trend.

According to this article by The New York Times, former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife, Jill, is publishing Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops under Simon & Schuster. The profits from her book will go toward charities for military families.

But Jill Biden isn’t the first to touch on this seemingly strange, but actually brilliant form of political campaigning. Laura Bush and Hilary Clinton have both written children’s books. So have Callista Gingrich, Lynne Cheney, and Carole Geithner, Timothy Geithner’s wife. And for that matter, it’s not just wives who are jumping on the bandwagon; it’s also daughters like Jenna Bush and Caroline Kennedy.

Most of the books have political undertones, which is why this election year, there seem to be more “Washington Wife Children’s Books” than ever. It’s all part of the process as Pamela Paul explains.

“Picture books and books for tweens are always a great way to put complex issues like politics into a context that young children can understand,” [HarperCollins Children’s Books editor-in-chief Kate Jackson] said. “They get the conversation going.” For Washington wives, writing a children’s book has become almost an expected spousal counterpart to the politician’s campaign tract or argument book. “Spouses have one mandatory obligation — ‘First Do No Harm’ — and one optional assignment: provide a positive magnifying force,” Mary Matalin, editor at large for Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, and a former member of Dick Cheney’s staff, wrote in an e-mail. “Children’s books fulfill both.”

Not all the books are political — like Carole Geithner’s, for instance. But for those that are, it’s a smart move because it not only teaches children about politics in an understandable way; it also gives children something to talk about with their parents. And that makes those voting adults think even harder about who they’re voting for, and what those people represent.

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Get Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life Ebook for $2.99, Free with Amazon Prime

Though I’ve yet to read Chelsea, Chelsea Bang, Bang, Chelsea Handler’s first book, My Horizontal Life, is easily her best. An hysterical collection of short stories about her sex life and one night stands, Handler shares her comedic chops better here than on any episode of her late night show, Chelsea Lately.

Handler details her escapades with midgets, cruise ship performers, and strippers. And the best part — it’s true! And even better — she has no shame! She shares all the gory details without hesitation, causing such strong laughter, you forget you’re reading a book.

Right now, you can get My Horizontal Life for just $2.99 for your Kindle, free for Amazon Prime members.

It’s also available in paperback for $9.96.

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Review: The Reader

Recap: It’s a daring, forbidden relationship, but how is 15-year-old Michael supposed to resist the beautiful, curvacious woman more than 20 years his senior? The Reader tells the story of Michael and Hanna’s 30+ year relationship in post-WWII Germany.

The story begins when Hanna rescues Michael after he falls ill on his walk home from school. He is very sick for a few months, and afterwards, he finally seeks out Hannah to thank her for her heroic actions. But their friendship quickly and ferociously turns sexual, and suddenly Hanna, a 36-year-old train conductor, is sleeping with a high school student. After some time, the sex turns into love, and all the while, Michael reads to Hanna. When they’re not making love, he’s reading stories, teaching her about the world outside their lovesick bubble.

Suddenly, Hanna leaves town. But it’s not the last Michael sees of his first and only true love. They do meet again — but this time it’s in court, and it’s not sexual at all. Hanna is on trial for a Nazi war crime — one that only Michael, who spent all those months reading to Hanna, knows she did not commit. But off she goes to jail, and Michael makes it a point to continue their relationship.

Analysis: The beauty of The Reader is that the novel is written so eloquently, yet like a diary. With Michael narrating, he doesn’t go into details. He speaks bluntly and openly to the readers, nonchalantly mentioning the night he fell in love with Hanna and their sexual escapades. His matter-of-fact narration sets the tone for the novel itself; the story moves quickly without much description. Author Bernhard Schlink writes The Reader so one storyline flows immediately into and causes the next. I like a book that moves quickly and wastes no time.

But I also like book with intertwining stories and surprises, which is what Schlink offers here. I knew that Michael and Hanna would meet again, but I didn’t think it would be during a war crimes trial. While Michael and Hanna are involved, there’s so little we know about Hanna. So initially, her involvement in Auschwitz is shocking.

The trial shines light on how Germany struggled to deal with the war even years after it ended. It also speaks to the issue of illiteracy, which — we can infer and later learn for a fact — is why Michael reads to Hanna. Big social issues, historical fiction, and romance play dynamic roles in The Reader, which left me fascinated and wanting to learn more.

MVP: Hanna. She had her issues — illiteracy, a murder conviction, sexual relations with an underage boy, and obvious insecurity. But she’s bold. She commands power, albeit unknowingly, over others in a way that’s both infuriating and captivating. She’s as complex as complex characters get, and I just wanted to know more about her.
Get The Reader for just $11.

Or get it on your Kindle for just $9.99.

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Get The Life and Death of Whitney Houston E-Book for $2.99, Free for Amazon Prime Users

Let’s be honest. We all love us some Whitney. With the shocking news of her death, people all over the world fell in the love with the superstar again and the songs for which she’s best remembered.

Houston died only two weeks ago, but former E! Entertainment Television host and bestselling author Michael Essany has already put released a book about the life and death of the Grammy Award-winning artist. The unauthorized book includes the reactions from Houston’s close family and friends — including Clive Davis, Mariah Carey, and Simon Cowell.

Houston’s longtime love Bobby Brown is also shopping a tell-all book, though there’s no telling whether or not it will actually happen. According to this article by Entertainment Weekly, Brown is not on good terms with Houston’s family, and they may not allow his book to move forward.

But Essany’s book already available in e-book version.

It’s just $2.99 for Kindle users, and FREE for Amazon Prime members.

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Authors Save the Postal Service By Writing Letters

With the U.S. Postal Service in a dire financial situation, a number of well-known authors have made it their mission to bring back the letter-writing of yesteryear.

According to this article by The New York Times, readers of the web site The Rumpus can pay $5 a month to receive at least one new letter every week from a notable author, including Dave Eggers, Jonathan Ames, Aimee Bender, and Stephen Elliott. The letters aren’t necessarily personalized, but they are hand-written and show the authors’ creative side.

This is just one of many different letter-writing campaigns started to boost snail mail, according to the article. The Rumpus‘s project has already encouraged 18,000 people to sign up. And much like authors use social media to connect with their readers, they’re also starting to realize letter-writing is another way to connect, as John Williams explains.

“Authors are really into this because it’s such a creative form,” Mr. Elliott said. “And it’s such a powerful direct link between authors and readers. Also, most authors include a return address and people write them back, a lot, which is incredibly gratifying.”

Just imagine getting a letter from one of your favorite authors in the mail — one that tells you a personal anecdote of theirs. That’s pretty amazing, and the fact that it’s helping a federal organization on the fritz and inspiring people to write and read more is even better.

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Get The Invention of Hugo Cabret in Hardcover for Just $14.99

Here’s one last Oscar book for you — The Invention of Hugo Cabret — which Martin Scorsese made an Oscar nominee this year with his movie, Hugo.
A fun and animated book, Hugo tells the story of a boy who lives inside a Paris train station. It’s a long book, but it’s also full of pictures. Likewise, Scorsese is getting a lot of critical acclaim for his movie adaptation — one of the few movies, he’s said multiple times, that he’ll allow his 12-year-old daughter to watch. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, the book seems to be a fun one, with quite the journey.

Get The Invention of Hugo Cabret in hardcover for just $14.99.

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Grand Central Publishing Launches E-Book Only Romance Imprint

We all know that e-book sales are on the rise, thanks to their convenience and mobility. But did you know that a large part of the e-book craze comes from romance e-books? Because women are embarrassed to buy romance novels, buying e-book versions allows them to download the guilty pleasure books without anyone knowing.

Now Grand Central Publishing is taking advantage of that. The company announced last month it would start a new leg of the company, specifically for romance novels that would be published as e-books only, not print books. According to this article by The New York Times, the new branch, called Forever Yours, will publish two to four romance e-books each month. This could be a huge boom for the company, as Julie Bosman explains.

According to the Romance Writers of America, which compiles statistics on the habits of romance readers, one-third of romance book buyers are currently reading e-books — a number that is higher than the industry average.

Forever Yours releases its first batch of romance e-books this month.

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Amazon’s Next Big Thing: A Store?

Amazon is likely the largest and most successful retailer that doesn’t exist in a physical sense…until now…maybe.

According to this article by the Huffington Post, Amazon is planning to open its first store. The store would be located in its city of origin — Seattle, Washington — and could open in the next few months.

There have been rumors about Amazon opening a store for years, but now the popular book-selling and Kindle-creating web site could really use the help. As the article mentions, Amazon is facing fierce competition from Barnes and Noble, with its Nook and its decision not to sell Amazon-published book in any of its stores. Not to mention, not having an Amazon “brick and mortar” store makes it difficult to repair Kindles — unlike, say, the Apple Store, with its ability to easily repair iPads.

No specific design plan has been announced yet. But with the popularity of the site, I could see the store opening and quickly becoming a nationwide phenomenon that will likely spread at a rapid rate.

What do you think?

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Review: The Romantics

Contributed By: Sam Smink

Recap: The name “he Romantics” was attributed to a long list of 18th and 19th century poets and artists who believed that love and passion could conquer all. But in the novel by Galt Niederhoffer, it refers to a group of  seven former Yale co-eds who reunite  two of their best friends’ wedding, six years after graduation.

Lila –the bride– is a self-appointed queen with the attitude to match. She’s very easy to dislike; after all, she’s beautiful, intelligent and landed the alpha male, Tom. Our groom-to-be is handsome, brilliant and scared out of his mind. He wants to be an artist and build a life out of instinct, but fear has kept him with Lila for 10 years.

Cue Laura, Lila’s ex-roommate and Tom’s ex-girlfriend. Laura is smart, attractive, and — like Tom — doesn’t know what she wants out of life but accepts it. In other words, she’s a mess. Lila loves Tom, Tom loves Laura, Laura loves Tom. In the ten years that Lila and Tom have dated, Laura and Tom’s love is never quite at bay. But Tom’s desire for a life without obstacles keeps him firm in Lila’s grasp.

Now it’s the night before the wedding and all seven of our Romantics are essentially unhappy with the way life has turned out, although they’d never admit it to each other. A night of drinking and tomfoolery leads to a lost groom, a coke habit, and some adultery. All’s forgotten in the morning –or so we are led to believe.

Analysis: In The Romantics, we meet seven of the most selfish people — people that are always unhappy and unsatisfied. They have gone through life at the top of the food chain, with the romantic idea that life’s struggles will disappear eventually. Only it doesn’t, and when they realize that, they’re already stuck in lives they don’t want.

My real problem with the book is that the main characters are unlikable. Instead of maturely dealing with their problems, they are self-destructive. For instance, Tom broke up with Laura ten years ago, but she still shows up to be the maid of honor at his wedding, with a sourpuss expression on her face. You’d almost sympathize with Lila, if she wasn’t awful. She’s depicted as nothing more than a self-absorbed monster, who shivers at compliments handed to others and revels in adoration. And Tom is just as easy to look at with disdain. It’s clear Tom doesn’t know what he wants, but it’s not fair to drag Laura into his mess.

Other than that, it’s hard to feel anything personally for the sidekicks. They engage in self-destructive behavior and are very one-dimensional. That being said, I wouldn’t discount the entire book. If you want to read a story to remind yourself how great you have it, and learn a lesson or two, this book is for you.

MVP: Laura. Despite being consistently outshone by the sexier Lila, and being hopelessly in love with an engaged man, Laura stays true to herself. She knows she is a mess but she accepts is. Is she a little selfish too? Absolutely. But she is not afraid, in the end, to let Tom know exactly what kind of coward he’s been all along.
Get The Romantics now for just $2!

Or get it for your Kindle for $9.99.

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Archie Comics Makes Bold Digital Move

Just as e-books are rapidly growing in popularity, so are digital sales of comic books. Just last week, Archie Comics became the first to offer digital copies of its comic books on the company’s Facebook page.

According to this article by Huffington Post, it’s the largest publisher to add their Facebook fans to their digital sales plan. Archie Comics will work with Graphicly to provide the digital copies. Archie is now being touted as one of the more forward thinking comic book companies. This digital move is considered a bold one.

Archie Comics already offers digital copies of its new comic books to readers the day the comics are released. The company’s Archie Comics app has been downloaded 4 million times. They’re also the first to offer Spanish-speaking copies of their comic books. Co-CEO Jon Goldwater explains toHuffPo why this move is such a big deal.

Facebook has been a huge source of fan interaction, feedback and energy. The ability to merge that with our significant digital output is really a no-brainer. No company with our level of reach on Facebook has done this. It’s in the numbers. Having the chance to make our Facebook page a place for fans to not only learn about the company’s news and initiatives but also to sample our titles and build a collection right on Facebook. It’s really a major move toward connecting the potential reader to the product. We make it easy and hopefully create a new, lasting part of our fanbase.

Goldwater explains that once you like the Archie Facebook page, you can click “Comics” and start reading the first few pages of a title. If you’re so inclined, you have the option to purchase the comic book. It seems like a relatively simple process. It blows my mind how little I know about the comic book world, but it IS kind of amazing to imagine a world where you can log onto Facebook and buy whatever digital copy of a book or comic book you want — instead of having to go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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